Bahamas Hurricane Dorian 2019
On 13th February, Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) called a Contractors Workshop which was attended by 35 contractors working in Freeport and surrounding Grand Bahama, 10 humanitarian agency staff, 5 GBPA building department staff, and the IFRC Shelter Sector coordination team. The GBPA Buildings Manager presented the GBPA Building Back Better (BBB) guidance version 1.0, and the Shelter Sector Technical Coordinator facilitated a 1 hour workshop to discuss the interim BBB messages produced by the sector. The purpose of this was for the Contractors to engage with the material, and identify the BBB suggested measures that would be impactful, and can be undertaken with ease and affordability. The discussion led to some new ideas, broadly validated the partners ranking of the messages, and sparked significant interest in BBB measures.
Coverage against targets
On September 1st 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit Northern Bahamas on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, reaching
Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It beat several historical records as the strongest Atlantic hurricane documented to directly impact land mass.
It is estimated that 29,472 persons and 9,000 homes were affected. Damage to the housing sector is estimated at $1.48 billion BSD, 88.9 percent of which took place on Abaco.
The official death count is 71 casualties, with 282 persons still missing. It is estimated that 15,000 people were in need of food or shelter, with 5,000 people evacuated to Nassau, New Providence.
The response to Hurricane Dorian’s impact is led by the Government of the Bahamas, for emergency through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and in coordination with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). NEMA has established its Emergency Support Functions (ESF) humanitarian coordination structure, composed of 15 ESFs with their own lead ministries or departments to align response sectors between relevant stakeholders. Although the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) cluster approach was not officially activated, coordination between humanitarian partners was established upon the request of the Government of The Bahamas. The IFRC, on behalf of the Global Shelter Cluster, as chair of the REDLAC Shelter Working Group and on request of NEMA, has deployed a Shelter Coordination Team to support existing coordination mechanisms and Bahamas Shelter Sector (BSS).
From December 3rd the coordination of the response was transferred from NEMA to the new Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA), that defined 7 recovery priorities and 11 projects, including 2 regarding shelter and housing.
As of February 18th, it is estimated that more than 4,900 households have received emergency shelter items. Partners have ongoing and planned activities for rental assistance to more than 535 households and early recovery support through homes mucking/gutting, mould remediation, or repairs for up to 2,868 housing units.
The Bahamas Shelter Sector partners will continue to provide shelter assistance under 3 strategic priorities (1) enabling access to temporary accommodation, (2) restoring permanent housing options, & (3) providing building back better technical assistance.
The main priority and current focus of the response is on repairing the maximum number of houses with non-structural damage before the next hurricane season due to commence in June.
Gaps / challenges
Some affected people from Abaco and Grand Bahama were evacuated to New Providence, with up to 2,000 sheltered in collective centers. Only few hundreds remain there, but without clear options to move back to their pre-Dorian communities.
House reconstruction in the Bahamas can be very expensive (upwards of 70,000 USD for a small 2 bedroom house). While government and partners are starting to repair houses with minor damage, there is no current capacity identified to rebuild at scale destroyed homes or houses with structural damage.
Due to the unprecedented scale of disaster impact for the Bahamas, building damage assessments have still to be completed and to be overlaid with social economic assessment data, in order to fully allow gap analysis for the recovery response moving forward.
Most of the houses damaged and destruction came from non-compliance with the Bahamas building codes and from the significant tidal surge flooding. Building Back Better, technical assistance and quality control for enhanced building code compliance has to be enhanced to reinforce resilience of Bahamian affected communities in a future of more frequent climate-change induced hurricanes.